Category Archives: Science

The Mind and Methods of V.S. Ramachandran

8232In the first chapter of his book, Phantoms in the Brain, premier neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran quotes Sherlock Holmes: “I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routines of everyday life.”

It was this “Sherlock Holmes” aspect of science and medicine – of exploring the unusual and figuring out how things work – that ultimately led to Ramachandran’s successful career in neurology. When he first began to study neurology, the brain was largely unchartered territory. Why is it that some people see colors when they smell certain aromas? Why is it that some people can still feel their fingertips – even when their hands are missing? For Ramachandran, a lifetime of mysteries was waiting to be solved.

As a child growing up in India and Thailand, Ramachandran loved the beautiful simplicity of scientific experiments. Put an iron nail in a blue solution of copper sulfate, and iron becomes copper – like magic! As a neurologist, Ramachandran continued to embrace a low-tech and elegant approach to scientific study whenever possible. When one of his patients still felt the painfully-clenched fist of his severed hand, Ramachandran used a mirror to fool the patient into seeing his missing hand and the patient was then able to unclench it and feel relief.

Ramachandran explains the “grandmother test” to UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler: “If an elaborate theory can not predict what your grandmother knows using common sense, then it isn’t worth much.” Thus, the litmis test of a well-constructed experiment is two-fold: first, it should be simple enough to easily explain it to your grandmother so that she understands it; and second, she should say “Wow!” If it’s too complicated to explain and it doesn’t interest her, then try again.

Learn more about the incredible work of V.S. Ramachandran in our video archive of his work and lectures. New programs feature discussions on neurolology and our questions of self, along with an interview with UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler. From mystical sensory experiences, to phantom limbs, to art – go inside the mind with Ramachandran.

Browse all programs in the V.S. Ramachandran video archive.

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Origins of Genus Homo – CARTA

8232Despite discoveries of remarkable new fossils in recent years, the evolutionary events surrounding the origins of genus Homo are incompletely understood.

This fascinating CARTA symposium explores evidence bearing on the emergence of our genus. What forces caused the changes in diet and body form as our predecessors evolved toward Homo. Were there forces from within on the molecular scale? Or changes in environment and climate? How did an integrated suite of behaviors, collectively termed hunting and gathering, that emerged sometime between 3 and 2 million years ago affect changes that spurred evolution towards the characteristics which are all associated with our human lineage?

Watch as a diverse cadre of experts from around the world present their observations on the Origins of Genus Homo.

Browse all episodes in CARTA: Origins of Genus Homo

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Launching The UC Climate Solutions Channel

8232The news about climate change is serious. The scientific consensus is clear – it’s getting worse and if we don’t address it, our planet will suffer. Browse this collection of some of the finest voices on climate change, as the University of California continues to lead the world in researching its causes and developing best practices to mitigate its impacts.

Public lectures, panel discussions, interviews, animations, mini-documentaries – UCTV’s newest theme channel features easily watchable programs that will inform your understanding of what’s at stake and show how you can join the ten UC campuses and be part of the climate solution.

Visit The UC Climate Solutions Channel.

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Decoding the Microbiome

8232There are on average about 110 trillion cells in the human body… and 100 trillion of those aren’t human. That’s the human microbiome, a mix of interdependent organisms living in a variety of ecosystems as diverse as guest Rob Knight puts it, “between a prairie in Kansas and a coral reef in Florida.” And that’s just the difference between the microbial life on your hand compared to the microbes in your mouth…

As amazing as this reality is, what’s more amazing is that our human existence is wholly dependent on the activities and products of this microbiome – we couldn’t survive without our body’s microbial partners.

This realization has led people like Rob Knight, professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science, and Larry Smarr, renowned authority in high-performance computing, to wield the tools of Big Data and bioinformatics to search for a deep understanding of what lives within and on us and how it works to sustain us, and to find ways to maintain and improve that symbiotic relation for better health and treatments for maladies from autism to Krohn’s disease.

Watch Decoding the Microbiome and browse more programs from Computing Primetime.

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Looking Beyond 2050 with Lord Martin Rees

8232Cosmologist, noted author, Astronomer Royal and recipient of the 2015 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, Lord Martin Rees has written and spoken extensively about the problems and challenges of the 21st century, and the interfaces between science, ethics and politics. In his words, “we need to broaden our sympathies both in space and time – and perceive ourselves as part of a long heritage, and stewards for an immense future.”

He points out that the current population is 7 billion people, and is projected to grow to 9 billion in 2050. In order to cope with this aging and ever-increasing population, with growing pressure on resources, and with rising global temperatures, Lord Martin Rees stresses that issues of global health and sustainability must stay high on the world’s agenda.

The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest was created and is supported by the Nierenberg family to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, who was director of Scripps for 21 years. As this year’s recipient, Lord Martin Rees delivers a thought-provoking and insightful perspective on the challenges humanity faces in the future beyond 2050.

Watch Looking Beyond 2050 — On Earth and in Space with Lord Martin Rees.

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